Bompas and Parr | Design, jelly and Alcoholic Architecture

27 Jul 2015
4 min read
With only a couple of days left until the grand opening of their latest installation, Alcoholic Architecture, FOUR talks to the brains behind the project, Sam Bompas & Harry Parr of Bompas and Parr.

Where were you born and where did you grown up?

I was born in Southwark in Guy’s Hospital and christened in Southwark Cathedral – the adjacent building to Alcoholic Architecture. My first job was working as a researcher for the local MP Simon Hughes and Harry and I set up Bompas & Parr with the sole aim of being able to do something at Borough Market (the site of the installation). So it very much feels like we are on our home turf!The site of the installation is Borough Market, London’s most renowned food market and a source of exceptional British and international produce. This produce and the local history of the area in general and the building in particular provides inspiration for the menu and the formulation of the cloud.

Ingredients used throughout will be sourced from Borough Market. The site of the bar, One Cathedral Street (built c. 1897) was the original home and offices of The Trustees of Borough Market. The basement where the bar is located was historically used as a banana store, where the unripe bananas from the West Indies were stored after unloading from the nearby port! Bananas hold the key!

How did you get into your line of work? Was there a particular moment where things just clicked into place or that you realized the direction you wanted to take?

As a child Roald Dahl’s cookbookRevolting Recipes was pretty inspiring too. It’s fully loaded with Quentin Blake’s illustration and recipes for stick-jaw toffee, lickable wallpaper and a Mr Twit beard made of chips.

Harry remembers being over-awed by the foot look fish fingers from roadside café Happy Eater.

Tell us about what Bompas and Parr does…

We try to tackle food like Wagner tackled opera. Looking it in terms of Gesamtkustwerkor taking the total art approach. This sounds pretty pretentious but in reality is straight forward and sprang from the problems with jelly. When we put tickets on sale for the Jelly Banquet over 2000 people bought one. We were worried as the best jellies are relatively small and underwhelming. We though we’d be lynched by pissed off punters so looked at how we could target the other senses too make for an engaging display. Canny lighting with the jellies used as fibre optics, co-ordinated jelly dances, a strawberry perfume, sampled soundscape of jelly wobbling and a wrestling pit made the night a grand success.

What can guests expect when they come to Alcoholic architecture?

At Bompas & Parr we’ve conquered countless temporary events and installations. From cooking with lava to hosting the New Year’s Eve fireworks for London for a quarter of a million people – where you could taste the fireworks in the sky and they were fruity!

One of the frustrations of doing things like flooding buildings with booze that people boat across before drinking is that they are short-lived. We’ve been hungry to do a longer project that more people can come to for some time now. This bar is our wild fantasies made reality we want customer to experience.

The installation explodes drinks to the scale of architecture for a beautiful, inhabitable world that spatialises the world’s best cocktails and creates a fully immersive alcohol environment. The focus will be on the flavour sensation that occurs when fine art meets the world’s best bartending.

Guests will be asked to don special protective suits to enter. The cloud is entirely composed of fine spirits and mixer at a ratio of 1:3 and made using powerful humidifiers to super-saturate the air. Alcohol enters the bloodstream through the body’s mucus membranes: primarily the lungs but also the eyeballs.

With humidity at 140 per cent, there is so much alcohol in the air, you can see less than a metre but the high humidity level enhances flavour perception. And by breathing the cocktail, alcohol bypasses the liver allowing you to consume 40 percent less (with correspondingly reduced calories) to feel the same effect! Bompas & Parr has worked with respiratory scientists and chemists to calculate safe dwell times guests can remain in the cloud.

What do you enjoy most about the collaborations andprojectsyou do?

I actually enjoy the stress. Apparently if you lead a stressful life you live a couple years longer. Harry may disagree though. His hair turned grey before he was 30. But now he’s enjoying the manifest pleasures of being a bona fide silver fox!

Do you have any future collaborations lined-up with other chefs or events?

The next project is coming up is opening up a major cultural institution and publishing our sixth book.

In terms of food/jelly/design what is hot on your radar at the moment?

Let’s see if London is ready for breathable clouds of alcohol, supping from skull cups, snakes in the bathrooms and drinks made by monks. If it works we’ll take it from there.

One of the true aims of this installation is to help support and subsidise an important public project that is geared to get people thinking about what’s on the end of their collective fork. It’ll be announced within a month and has been percolating in the studio’s collective consciousness for a little time now. We can’t wait to give British foodies something to marinate on!

Do you cook at all? What kinds of things do you like cooking at home?

Harry is while I make the drinks! Last time we were lecturing at Harvard we ended up crashing a frat party and taking the helm at the bar for the night to elevate the caliber of drinking.

Favorite cheap eat?

I’ve got a portable hot dog machine on my desk that I use when working late, slathering the sultan of sausages with countless unctuous condiments. The results are decadently snappy and luxurious while costing a mere 12 p per meaty snack. It is essential to ensure you are alone when you eat this way!

Find out more about Bompas and Parr and the Alcoholic Architecture installation here |